The semi-final meeting between the Netherlands and Argentina in Sao Paulo is the latest chapter in a rich FIFA World Cup history between the countries.
Perhaps the most significant of the teams' four meetings to date was the first, in Gelsenkirchen on 26 June 1974 in the second group stage: the breakthrough of Rinus Michels' 'Total Football' concept. Inspired by Johan Cruyff, the rampant Oranje ran out 4-0 winners, Cruyff scoring the first and fourth goals for a team that would ultimately fall at the last, losing the final to West Germany.
Argentina got their revenge almost exactly four years later. On 25 June 1978 in Buenos Aires the sides met in the World Cup final. After a bright Netherlands start, Argentina took over, Mario Kempes giving them a first-half lead, but the Netherlands came back strongly, equalised with eight minutes left through Dick Nanninga's header and could have taken the trophy in the final minute, Rob Rensenbrink's effort coming back off a post. Instead the trophy went to Argentina, Kempes and Daniel Bertoni scoring in extra time to inflict a second successive final defeat.
Once more revenge would come, although the Dutch had a lengthy wait – 20 years to be precise, when the teams met in the 1998 quarter-final in Marseille on 4 July. Patrick Kluivert gave Guus Hiddink's men an early lead that was swiftly cancelled out by Claudio López, and it looked like extra time would again be required to separate the sides. Dennis Bergkamp had other ideas: in the 89th minute, he collected Frank de Boer's long pass, cut inside marker Roberto Ayala in one fluid movement and fired high into the net for a goal that is often considered one of the finest in World Cup history. Again, however, the Dutch fell short, losing to Brazil in the last four.
The fourth encounter was less significant, on 21 June 2006 – the final group game, in Frankfurt, when both teams had already qualified for the knockout stage. Each opted to make several changes, and the result was a goalless draw. The Netherlands lost to Portugal in the round of 16, with Argentina bowing out to hosts Germany in the last eight.
Plenty of back story then, but for the class of 2014 that counts for little. "We have to forget about the history for now – Argentina are Argentina, but we are the Netherlands," said midfielder Wesley Sneijder. Captain Robin van Persie added: "
We're playing so well now because we're playing with great belief. That's why I'm convinced we can beat Argentina. We're able to beat every team at this tournament."
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